Police and special forces have begun to crack down on the thousands who are in the third day of their nationwide protest against the Islamic Republic, following the downing of a Ukrainian plane with 176 people on board last week. There are reports this morning that Iran's repressive regime may be using tear gas, rubber bullets and even live ammunition on the protesters.

Iran first denied hitting the plane but then reversed course and admitted it was shot down in error. That reignited the pro-democracy protests that had been put down violently by the now-late General Qasem Soleimani – you know, the poet – late last year.

President Donald Trump has been encouraging the protesters and warned the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through a series of tweets not to harm them: “Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching."

The Trump Administration has stated that it has no intention of going to war with Iran and it does not look to impose a regime change. Trump is, however, sending strong signals to the Iranian people that the U.S. supports them and will be there for them should they decide to topple the dictatorship. Trump has also called on NATO countries to take more of a leadership role in the region and to put the squeeze on the Ayatollah through tighter sanctions.

So far Trump's leadership on this matter has been measured and on target. Trump has no desire for war, nor do the American people; but at the same time, he must remain firm in his commitment to keeping Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. The NATO partners must do more than just talk on the Iran issue.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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